Brand Focus: Fear of God

Brand Focus: Fear of God

Family and community driven, Jerry Lorenzo, founder of Los Angeles’ Fear of God, has been a unique voice in a usually secular industry.

Not one to shroud himself in ephemeral mystery, Lorenzo has always been transparent about his passion-centered process – a well of inspiration that has been informed by his familial relationships, loyal supporters, and most importantly, his spirituality.

His openness about his relationship with the divine hasn’t been the only aspect of his public persona raising industry eyebrows. Jerry has expressed an air of indifference towards fashion in general and has been especially dismissive of the restrictive systems within it attempting to shoo him into a box. The hectic fashion calendar is one aspect of the industry Jerry might have subverted by accident.

I just have an interest in being able to put out my ideas at the luxury of when I want to. My brand is not on calendar. I mean, it was by ignorance... I didn't know I had to be on a calendar right out of the gate, but it's worked out. It's been good for us.

Most people would hesitate to call Jerry a “true-blue” designer, but Lorenzo also doesn’t seem phased by his outsider status in that respect. He openly recognizes that the narrow fashion world wasn’t necessarily built for someone like him. Lorenzo never attended a traditional design school but draws intense passion for apparel curation through a personal lens of nostalgia. Lorenzo is pulling from his childhood, 80’s and 90’s music culture, and his favourite athletes. All these influences combine to birth what he calls, “Modern Americana.”

Historically, it’s been easy for most to put Lorenzo’s brand right into the streetwear box, where we can draw familiar associations with hip-hop and skate culture, but he looks forward with resolution. Jerry sees Fear of God following a lineage of iconic American brands: think Ralph Lauren, Perry Ellis, and Tommy Hilfiger

All of my references are references from the ‘80s and ‘90s of my heroes, whether they're Kurt Cobain or Allen Iverson or John Bender from The Breakfast Club. These are American idols, you know what I mean? These were icons from different subcultures that now—fast forward 20, 25 years later—are now merging into one. I'm painting the picture of what this looks like. No, it's not hip-hop. No, it’s not it's not rap. No, it's not rock. No, it's not grunge. It's all of these things combined.

One thing that sets Lorenzo apart is his resistance to complacency. Every look, piece, and solution that he curates is met with equal scrutiny. He spoke more about his commitment to producing impactful collections in our recent Conversations interview with him in April.

I have peace knowing that Fear of God has always put product into the marketplace, despite not being a very capitalistic brand. We’ve never stuffed 4 or 5 collections into a year. We wait till we have something to say. We wait till product reaches a level that showcases the best of our current production ability. We don’t take the luxury of being able to put ideas out into the world lightly. We honour that opportunity.

This authenticity of vision caught the eyes of Kanye West, Justin Bieber and Virgil Abloh during the early stages of Fear of God’s inception. One of Lorenzo’s first designs was a sleeveless hoodie with side zippers. There were elements of his idea floating around in the landscape, but none were exactly like his first design – and none were out in the market. Little did he know that its success would be a springboard, launching him from Diesel stock employee to one of fashion’s most sought after independent designers.

Fear of God was always about making clothes for people into sports, who also happened to understand the somewhat exclusive language of high fashion. The resulting collections from Lorenzo echo similar sentiments to those expressed by Ralph Lauren’s venture into Polo.

Sport directly informs much of Jerry’s passion – an authentic influence that seems to trickle down from his father Jerry Manuelaka “The Sage,” a successful baseball player and manager for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. As someone into sports, with a familial legacy in baseball, it seemed like the natural choice for Lorenzo to inject his label with motifs from his passion and his father’s lineage.

First and foremost, and unlike a lot of designers before me—there’s very few of me—I'm a guy's guy. I like to go to the ballpark. I like to go to basketball games. I got a grill for Father's Day. I will put my turkey burgers up against anybody’s. I do stuff that American dudes like to do and in finding the freedom in myself, what I'm trying to do is, provide that freedom for my consumer…”

Storytelling, mainly the American story of a kid growing in the cultural eutopia of the 80’s and 90’s, has been an enormously resonant narrative exploding Fear of God’s popularity. Outside of the artistic realm of haute couture, narratives of authenticity, like the ones Jerry aims to project, stand out as relentlessly inclusive.

Our recent check in with Lorenzo had us follow up on his widely anticipated 7th collection, which was slated to release soon after the first pandemic disruption. Despite these unprecedented difficulties, he expressed his uncompromising attitude towards a singular vision he wanted to deliver, albeit with some form of conscious adaptation.

We had a pretty robust story to tell. I think it would be tone deaf and irresponsible to tell the story we had planned, the way we wanted to tell it, in these times. I think it’s more of editing down that story... having a more focused message and making sure that we acknowledge the times through our campaign and physical pieces.

Acknowledgement has been an important aspect of Fear of God’s market malleability. Not only is Lorenzo unwilling to adhere to the constraints of a bourgeoise and collection-focused fashion calendar, but he genuinely appreciates the diversity of his audience, especially as he has found some of his most loyal followers in the younger generation. Lorenzo wanted to produce a line with wider accessibility, as Fear of God’s luxury price point was out of reach for many of his fans.

In addition to his main line, Lorenzo responded with FOG – Fear of God Essentials, a set of quality staples sold at much lower, accessible price point. Two years later, Lorenzo’s improvements to this Pacsun exclusive have it hold up much better beside his mainstay label, in both quality and execution.

We don’t feel that accessibility needs to be a knockoff or a cheaper version of a better thing,

Lorenzo explains.

Why not just make a great thing at an accessible price point that is founded in honesty?

More recently, Lorenzo has begun work with Italian luxury label Ermenegildo Zegna, a fashion house known for its century long legacy rooted in impeccable tailoring and sleek suiting. Under the guidance of Alessandro Sartori, Zegna has innovated with collections that express traditionalist design notions with new implementations of contemporary elements.

The Fear of God x Ermenegildo Zegna collection features a series of tailored looks that seamlessly combine ready-to-wear aesthetics with precise cuts – successfully blurring needless distinctions between typically disparate design bases. Jerry noted the disconnect between his audience’s awareness of tailoring, and how the collection would serve not only as a base of education, but would also innovate past unnecessary distinctions in menswear.

I think between what’s happening culturally in fashion and what’s happening in tailoring, is there’s a huge disconnect. I think my customer and I see tailoring as intimidating, so how do we make tailoring less intimidating? How do we make suiting and tailoring feel like a hoodie and a pair of sweatpants, something that you can slide into easily and something that fits comfortably with you and something that allows you to be appropriate for all occasions? I think there’s a maturation that is happening from a youth side, and I think there’s also an easiness that an older gentleman is looking for as well. So we both saw this space that we wanted to play in, and that is both easy and sophisticated

Lorenzo is pushing forward accessibility and mass appeal. His target audience is both ageing and growing. Wide acceptance seems to be the greater narrative of forward-thinking design inspiring his vision with Fear of God.

He also spoke on the need for discourse around menswear to move past designations like “street” in wear, as they encourage a hierarchy of taste that typically undercuts similar aesthetics as low brow. By extension, “streetwear” designers who are predominantly creatives of colour end up delegitimized by these unnecessary categories.

Virgil Abloh, artistic director for Louis Vuitton and current designer of Off-White, echoed a similar message in his interview with Dazed Digital. He commented on the nature of harmful designations, that ultimately impose limitations on the design process, especially with titles like “streetwear:”

I was at this point in fashion where my contemporaries and my friends, like Shayne from Hood By Air – who’s super important to the narrative – were painting this picture of what’s to come. At that time, the formal press was only just categorising that type of design as ‘streetwear’; as a designer, you get confronted with the term of your generation which you have no control over. From that frustration I decided if ‘streetwear’ was gonna be the sign of the times I was gonna define it rather than be defined by it.

Sneakers and hoodies can only be pushed so far before designers hit a brick wall in ideation. Regardless, Lorenzo seemed to agree with Abloh, making his collaboration with Zegna that much more interesting. This might be the first actionable step in a plan to eliminate the unhelpful distinction between high fashion and “street” fashion altogether.

I think what Virgil was saying was that he was asking for our perspective to not be considered ‘street.’ Because although we cut and sew hoodies and sweatpants and T-shirts, we put just as much love into them as goes into a suit…. I hope the stigma of what’s being considered ‘streetwear’ could die, and we could all just be considered creatives. And my class of young designers that are now coming up, we’re maturing, and we have different desires and different occasions and different ways that we want to present ourselves. We still want to present ourselves within that communication of easiness and effortlessness and luxury, but at a higher level, through tailoring and fabrication.

The accompanying lookbook showcases a series of sleek looks that successfully bridge the distinctive gap between ready-to-wear, casual fashion and traditional suiting. Billowing pinstripe pants with relaxed cut, lapel-less blazers are a standout example of forward tailoring in this collection.

Higher cut circular collars, reminiscent of wind guards layer perfectly beneath speckled suits, while classic braided leather belts look right at home styled with whisker washed denim. Even a familiar drop-crotch pant sees a tailored version, elevated with a tonal fabric belt.

A series of boxy outerwear pieces and shirting designed with both premium cashmere and calf leather materials hint at a retrospective look back towards quintessential Americana. Each look errs on the side of progressive nightwear, with elements that are inextricable from Fear of God’s signature repertoire. This limited collaboration will be available soon at Roden Gray alongside three new low-cut sneakers that recently landed in-store and online. The Skate Low arrives in both white/gray and black/gray versions, while the 101 Backless Sneaker comes in a canvas taupe colourway. Both shoes are constructed with platform outsoles, translucent lace locks, and feature debossed logos at the heel.

Lorenzo also recently teased a forthcoming collaboration with Barton Perreira, an eyewear label known for its adherence to the highest quality in material sourcing, with all their frames being handmade in Japan. Featuring five acetate variations of Lorenzo’s daily frames, each piece celebrates the realization of a shared vision. The collection is slated to release on Jun 19th at the shop and on our website.

This clearly isn’t the end for Jerry Lorenzo. Between raising three children, heading two labels and managing a slew of collaborations, he recognizes that delivering impact never comes easy. Truly creative ideas bloom in moments of crisis. With that in mind, we’re likely to see Jerry’s best work come out this year.

Fear of God x Ermenegildo Zegna is set to release in September 2020 in-store and online.